Feature Article of Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Columnist: Tanaa, Billings John

Social Media Marketing. Are Ghanaian Businesses missing out?

This is the first in a series that I will be addressing. Businesses all over the world have practically turned social media into a diamond mine. In the US alone, Fortune 500 companies like Ford and Dell are investing heavily in Social Media. This year Ford Motors Inc. spent 25% of their marketing budget to digital and social media marketing. Dell, Wal-Mart, Starbucks, JetBlue and American Express invest significantly more. In some instances, the investment is tens of millions of dollars. A case in hand; The Chrysler Group Jeep® brand was looking for a social program to raise awareness of the launch of the 2012 Jeep Wrangler Arctic Edition and they successfully used Facebook and Twitter to achieve the following results. • Jeep Brand mentions in social media increased, seeing the highest lift in more than 7 months. • Participation exceeded expectations by 873% with more than 215,000 entries • More than 25,000 entrants shared the campaign on Facebook, shattering expectations by 693% • Likes on the Jeep Facebook page increased by over 120,000 fans in 6 weeks. Now back to the other side of the globe, Ghanaian businesses seem to be oblivious of the enormous potential and seemingly cheaper yet effective and efficient social media marketing tool. Facebook users in Ghana alone are hitting 2.5million. As a business or marketer, that should sound a bell. I will first start by making sure we touch base with the fundamentals so we are all on the same wavelength as far as this series run. What exactly is Social Media? When I first heard of the term social media and decided to do a research on the term, the first picture that came to mind was a large play ground with all kinds of people, different races, sex, and age groups making merry, laughing and sharing memories. So many years down the line this pictures is not entirely false though social media is a little more than my playground concept. We have the influencers or thought leaders, the developers, the participants, the passers-by etc. Different actors play different roles. In fact, Social Media is such a broad topic one single definition cannot fit all. What we define as social media today based on current trends may entirely change tomorrow when a different social media platform emerges. To be fair to ourselves lets break down the term into key words in order to have a working definition of what social media is. Media as we all know is an instrument of communication like newspaper or television. Social is defined by dictionary.com as “pertaining to, devoted to, or characterized by friendly companionship or relations” Social Media therefore would be an instrument of communication that allows friendly companionships or relationships. Any website or software that allows a two-way communication is social media. Social Media technologies include Blogs, Microsblogs (Twitter), Social Networking sites (Facebook, Hi5, LinkedIn), Internet Forums (Warriorforum.com) Social bookmarking (Stumbleupon, reddit, dig, delicious), video sharing sites( youtube, myspace, podcasts), and Picture sharing sites(Pinterest, flickr, picassa, instagram). This list is not the least exhaustive. Day in day out there are more ideas that continue to shape the social media landscape. An example is a new social site called Second Life, which is a virtual reality world where users are represented by avatar and live a real life in a virtual world. Infact people get married and have kids in this virtual reality game! Unlike standard websites that gives users information without allowing them the opportunity to interact with the content on the site in the form of commenting, sharings, ratings etc, social media sites does exactly the opposite. A typical example will be a newpaper or magazine that provides the reader information but the reader has no opportunity to express his thoughts on the content he consumes. It is static and final and cannot be reviewed. Social media websites facilitate sharing of information in the form of text, pictures, videos, documents.

Series 2….. History of Social Media Before we go ahead to talk extensively on the topic Social media, it is important we trace the history of social media so we have a clear understanding of its evolution, the thought leadership behind it and what to expect in the coming years. There are many claims to the term social media, just as there are controversies as to who the God-father of hip-life in Ghana actually is. According to Wikipedia, the term was coined in September 10, 1999 by a gentleman named Brad L. Graham, as a joke. It was re-coined in 2002 by William Quick, and was quickly adopted and propagated by the warblog community. According to Forbes Magazine however, most of the bragging has been done by a lady named Tina Sharkey, CEO of Babycenter.com backing her claim by the fact that she owns the website http://www.socialmedia.com . However she didn’t register the term before 1999 and there is no public evidence of her using the term before then. According to Forbes, the earliest citation in Nexis or Factiva for a use of “social media” in anything like the way it’s used now is from 1997, when serial entrepreneur Ted Leonsis, then an executive at AOL, was quoted talking about the need to offer users “social media, places where they can be entertained, communicate, and participate in a social environment.”

Prior to the evolution of social media, there was what we called web 1.0 websites which were essentially static websites that provided content and information that users could just only read without the ability to contribute and interact with the website. E.g are company or government websites that provide a list of product or services without giving the user the opportunity to post a comment, a review or a suggestion. Web 1.0 was so static people easily got bored with content. For e.g customers don’t trust businesses and the authenticity of information posted about a product or service was doubted because no other user could review and give an objective recommendation. Also people increasingly saw the need to be able to interact with friends and family, collaborate on projects, discuss a common issue or simply just have fun. That was where the concept of web 2.0 evolved. Web 2.0 was coined in 1999 and is closely associated with Tim O’Reilly because of the O’Reilly Media Conference which was held in late 2004. Web 2.0 however does not refer to any technological changes to software requirements, but generally in the way developers and end-users alike use the web. Web 2.0 is therefore synonymous to Social Media. It is claimed that the first real social media site was sixdegrees.com, eventhough online bulleting boards had existed earlier but sixdegree is probably the best example of what we know today as social media because it allowed the creation of profiles, friendlists and memos. There were others like AsianAvenue, MiGente, BlackPlanet These sites cropped up in the years following SixDegrees’ launch, between 1997 and 2001.They allowed users to create profiles and add friends (generally without needing approval to add people). Users could create professional, personal and dating profiles on these sites. While they were some of the earliest social networks, there were few innovations among them. LiveJournal started in 1999 and took a different approach to social networking. While Six Degrees allowed users to create a basically-static profile, LiveJournal was a social network built around constantly-updated blogs. Major advances in social media started with friendstar in 2002 which was a truly modern social network site. Then followed were h15, LinkedIn, Myspace, facebook. Micro blogging and social bookmarking sites also evolved at this same time. Twitter, delicious, reddit, dig, tumblr etc While Facebook started out as a Harvard-only social network back in 2004, it quickly expanded to other schools, then to high schools, businesses and eventually everyone (by 2006). In 2008 Facebook became the most popular social networking site, surpassing MySpace, and continues to grow. As of October 6, 2012, Facebook celebrated its one billionth population, making it the largest ever online nation in the world. 1 out of every 6 people on earth is on facebook! You may be wondering, as a business how does social media concern me? How do I care if facebook is one billion? In my next article I will talk about social media marketing. How businesses can monetize social media platforms like facebook. I will take you through amazing social media statistics that will blow you away and the reasons why establishing a presence on social media is no longer an option for businesses. It is a MUST and the effects of missing out are potentially deadly. It is like shooting yourself in the right foot (the most potent foot). Whether you like it or not, your customers/clients are on social media, they are talking about your brand and discussing you. If you don’t join them in the conversation, your competition will and when they do, they just going to sweep away your customers within the twinkle of an eye because you don’t care about them. I will also show you the right way to engage online, How to setup a social media strategy. Even how to represent your brand online is critical to your success. You must represent your business across multiple platforms and speak with a unified voice and branding. You will need a lot of planning and strategy. You just don’t setup a business page and start posting status updates just like your personal profile. There are guidelines and you will need to do it professionally. When you finally engage, how do you manage and monitor your progress. How do you measure and analyse your milestones. How do you measure ROI. If any negativity arises what game plan do you devise to fight it? Doing social media is a double edge sword. It’s like exposing yourself to the world. If done right, the whole world hears about you. In same vein, one wrong move and your mess is all over the globe! there is a right/wrong way to engage. I will take you through all these in a series that will be running weekly henceforth. Have a great day and see you next week.

About the Author:

Billings John Tanaa is a Social Media Professional/Enthusiast. He is the owner of Sparks Social Media Solutions (http://www.sparkssocialmedia.com). Sparks help businesses leverage on social media platforms by integrating social media marketing into their mainstream marketing strategy with measurable ROI. You can reach me at billings@sparkssocialmedia.com